Understanding Triggers for Clarification Requests in Community-Based Software Help Forums

In this study I asked: What causes communication to break down online when people ask for help on software forums?

When people try to find help online they often forget to include key information that forces help-givers to stop and ask for clarification. This delays resolution and is frustrating for all involved. What causes this to happen in the first place? We analyzed over 2000 conversations containing clarification requests across four different software help forums to try to answer this question.

It turns out that there is no one answer to this question! Every forum we looked at showed unique trends in causes for clarification requests. This suggests opportunities for building intelligent agents or highly configurable systems to aid help-seekers to ask better questions.